USA Hockey today announced the 27 players that would make up its preliminary roster for the U.S. National Junior Team. Team USA will have to whittle this list down to 23 players (20 skaters, three goalies) by Dec. 23 when USA Hockey plans to announce its final roster.
The U.S. selection list is highlighted by three returnees including goalie John Gibson, forward J.T. Miller and defenseman Jacob Trouba. Additionally, the U.S. roster prelim roster also includes first-round draft picks Alex Galchenyuk, Stefan Noesen, Stefan, Matteau, Tyler Biggs, Connor Murphy, Brady Skjei, Miller and Trouba.
This list is a good one, but the U.S. certainly will have its hands full when it comes time for the tournament.
As always there will be debate over who was or wasn’t invited and there’s always going to be a plethora of arguments to support either side’s case. In the end, this is the group USA Hockey feels gives them the best chance to win based on a summer camp and the first half of this hockey season.
For the 2010 World Juniors, USA Hockey for the first time dedicated a full-time scout to the junior team and have continually tweaked the selection process. It is far better now than it was even four years ago when there was no expanded roster at the pre-tournament camp and final decisions were made in early December.
Wanting to put last year’s debacle behind them, the staff clearly put a lot of time and careful consideration into the roster. I’ll be examining their choices in detail in upcoming posts later today and tomorrow.
But for now, after the jump, some rapid reaction to USA Hockey’s U.S. National Junior Team preliminary roster…
Team USA By Position
Goalies: John Gibson (ANA), Jon Gillies (CGY), Garret Sparks (TOR)
Defense: Shayne Gostisbehere (PHI), Matt Grzelcyk (BOS), Seth Jones (2013), Jake McCabe (BUF), Connor Murphy (PHX), Mike Reilly (CBJ), Patrick Sieloff (CGY), Brady Skjei (NYR), Jacob Trouba (WPG)
Left Wings: Johnny Gaudreau (CGY), Stefan Matteau (NJD), Mario Lucia (MIN), Blake Pietila (NJD), Jimmy Vesey (NSH)
Centers: Alex Galchenyuk (MTL), Rocco Grimaldi (FLA), Vincent Trocheck (FLA), Sean Kuraly (SJS), Cole Bardreau (FA)
Right Wings: J.T. Miller (NYR), Stefan Noesen (OTT), Tyler Biggs (TOR), Riley Barber (WSH), Ryan Hartman (2013)
Phil Housley has a big task ahead of him coming off of last year’s disappointing seventh place finish. This is the highest level he’s been a head coach at and it is no small job. The Stillwater High School head coach and former WJC and World Championship assistant has been through events like this before so his experience is valuable.
It’s always interesting to see what kind of stamp a head coach puts on a team. You can tell a lot about the style they’re going for by who they bring into camp and who they’ve cut.
Expect Housley’s bunch to play an up-tempo game, similar to teams of years past. The big ice should be a strength for this team based on good speed throughout the lineup and some excellent mobility on the back end.
Everyone remember’s Housley’s playing style and he has several defensemen that fit into that same mold as he played. There’s a good mix on the back end, but throughout the D corps, they have guys that should excel on the big ice either due to heightened defensive awareness or that mobility already mentioned. He has some guys that can stretch the ice with passing or using their feet.
You can tell by some of the guys that didn’t make it among the forwards that Team USA wants to play fast with its first three lines. Versatility is also a huge factor among many of the forward selections. You can already start plotting out the roles these guys will play based on their skill sets.
There really weren’t too many surprises here, which is actually a surprise in itself. Aside from Rocco Grimaldi who was injured and Riley Barber, every player on this roster was at the summer camp in Lake Placid. Barber and Grimaldi were always on the radar anyway, so it’s not a shock to see them here.
Some folks might be surprised to see Cornell’s Cole Bardreau, but his selection makes sense as a fourth-line center. That’s the spot he’ll be battling for. Bardreau plays with speed and physicality and has some great defensive sense. At the 2011 World Under-18 Championship, Bardreau saw significant time against Russia’s line of Nail Yakupov, Nikita Kucherov and Mikhail Grigorenko and along with Blake Pietila, shut them down almost completely. So he has a track record and has been doing it at Cornell too. He’s a role player with grit and jump.
Riley Barber was not invited to the U.S. World Junior Camp in the summer, but he’s the nation’s leading point producer among freshman. He has 18 points in 14 games as a true freshman, which is significant. He won’t be handed a spot though. The natural right winger has some stiff competition to try and supplant.
Patrick Sieloff isn’t necessarily a surprise, but he was just outside my projections for the roster. He has that physical edge that the U.S. needs to have success in those tough games against Russia and Canada. He’s no lock either, but he brings an element to the game that only perhaps Jacob Trouba can match, so he’s going to be interesting to watch in camp.
Sean Kuraly’s slow start at Miami created doubt he’d make the team, but his play at the summer evaluation camp was so good that it’s tough to ignore. He had instant chemistry with Stefan Noesen and Mario Lucia and that line produced at an incredibly high clip. Perhaps reuniting them will jumpstart Kuraly. Even though he’s struggled as a freshman at Miami, he was so good in that camp that they just had to bring him.
It happens every year. There are going to be players that get left off that a lot of folks think should be there. I’m not one to second guess as I have always maintained that whatever information a team has about a certain player is usually going to trump mine. I don’t know what kind of mix they’re looking for or if there are concerns about character or fit. All I know is that Player X didn’t make it, but Player Y did. Still, it’s worth pointing out the guys people will be talking about.
Reid Boucher — The Sarnia sniper is one of the best goal scorers in the age group. He has 21 this season in the OHL and has been playing on a line with Alex Galchenyuk for much of the year. What I think it probably came down to with Boucher was footspeed and versatility. Boucher is a dynamic scoring talent, but his skating leaves a little to be desired and to play on the top-9 for the U.S., they want guys that can fly. I have really enjoyed Boucher’s game over the last years and there’s a very good argument for inclusion, but with guys like Jimmy Vesey who can play a two-way game, Blake Pietila who brings physicality and defensive capabilities, Mario Lucia who has size and speed and puck magician Johnny Gaudreau, I can understand why he’s not a fit. Still a moderate surprise.
Nic Kerdiles — The Wisconsin freshman returned from the sanctions against him from the NCAA and played extremely well in those two games last weekend. That said, with only four games played (he played two with the U.S. Under-18s mid-season), the concern over readiness for the rigors of the World Juniors over a player that has played all year appear to have trumped previous track record. Kerdiles is a big-bodied winger who can play with pace and do a little bit of everything, but the WJC schedule can be a grind even for guys that have been playing all year. I’m not stunned he didn’t make it, though I did have him on my projection. Update: During today’s teleconference, Team USA GM said the team hasn’t ruled out adding players to camp and that Kerdiles’ unique situation is a big reason for it. Kerdiles will continue to be evaluated before the camp starts and a decision will be made then, so he could be going one way or another.
Andy Welinski — I thought Welinski would get the nod for his two-way play, but with the litany of puck-movers and defensive specialists, I can understand why USA Hockey went with a guy like Sieloff instead. Welinski has had a lot of responsibility at UMD in a top-pairing role, but he’d be relegated to somewhere in the six or seven spot on Team USA. Based on the mix of defensemen they are bringing to the camp, Welinski’s omission makes sense.
Adam Erne — A lot of QMJHL fans thought Erne would be the underager to make the U.S. roster, but there weren’t any. Despite Erne’s terrific production in the Q, it’s rare for an underager to make this team from outside the NTDP. Additionally, I don’t see where he’d fit in with the stacked right wing group USA has. Miller and Noesen look clear top-six and it would be tough to slot Erne in a scoring role for this team. He’ll be a top candidate next year, though.
I’ll have much, much more on the roster selection after Team USA’s teleconference including player-by-player breakdowns of this roster. Stay close to USA Hockey all day long for expansive WJC coverage.